In the last few days, the Federation of Petrol Dealers Association has received over 150 calls from hassled petrol pump owners, who complain that they are being “grilled” by local residents, activists and political outfits. These owners claim that customers and others have been throwing one question after another, seeking to know whether any “electronic chips had been installed in the system to cheat them”.
“While customers seem to be raising doubts, some small political bodies are falsely accusing the pump owners of cheating… this has made life difficult for pump owners who have been calling up the Federation in distress,” said Ali Daruwalla, spokesperson of the All India Petrol Dealers Association.
Vivek Shinde, a petrol pump owner from Chandani Chowk area, said, “Regular customers do not suspect anything amiss, but newcomers do raise queries… It is important for the association to set the record straight about dealings at pumps in Pune”.
Another petrol pump owner said, “Customers unnecessarily try to raise queries and want to check the system. We can’t stop the pump for such requests when dozens of customers are waiting in queue”.
The issue of alleged cheating at pumps surfaced in May, when the Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh Police made two arrests from Maharashtra, including one from Pune, in connection with a multi-crore scam. Several petrol pumps in the state were found to be using remote control-linked electronic chips in their fuel dispensing machines, to cheat consumers by providing them less fuel than what they had been charged for.
The revelations had put all the petrol pumps in Maharashtra under the scanner.
In June, personnel from Thane Police and officials from the Revenue, Weights and Measures Departments had sealed a fuel dispensing machine at a petrol pump in Hadapsar area, on suspicion that the pump had installed a chip to supply less fuel and take customers for a ride. The police had registered a case under sections 265 and 267 (making and fraudulent use of false weight or measure), 420 (cheating), 465 (forgery) and 34 (common intention).
Daruwalla said that the 550 pumps in Pune district have been thoroughly inspected and checked by various agencies appointed by the Centre and oil companies. “It is only after the complete assurance given by inspecting officials that petrol pumps are now safely operational, and there is absolutely no need for customers to worry about malpractices — such as less delivery of fuel, manipulation or tampering — at their local petrol pumps,” he said.
Daruwalla said after the completion of the raids, the Association could confidently state that “all remaining pumps are now absolutely clean.” The Petroleum Dealers Association said that local residents should have faith in the petrol pump owners “who are now certified as not being involved in any malpractice whatsoever.”